Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly warned that Britain could leave the European Union if Jean-Claude Juncker becomes next president of the European Commission. Cameron is said to have issued the warning to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is backing Mr Juncker for the position.
German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Mr Cameron told Mrs Merkel that if Mr Juncker got the position it would “destabilise his government to such a point that it would bring forward a referendum on whether to exit the EU”.
Mr Juncker, who was formerly Prime Minister of Luxembourg, is a passionate Euro-federalist, and Mr Cameron is wary that appointing him to a senior position could provoke anti-EU sentiment in Britain, especially after UKIP’s success in the European Elections.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that last Friday, Mrs Merkel said that talks were being held “in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should become president of the European Commission”, suggesting her support for him has not waned. Other heads-of-government are not so keen, however. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte and Finland’s Jyrki Katainen are all reported to oppose Mr Juncker’s appointment.
David Cameron is keen to establish his Eurosceptic credentials after his party finished third in the European Elections in Britain, despite offering a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. Many Conservative voters went over to the insurgent UK Independence Party, which wants to leave the EU.
If Mr Cameron remains Prime Minister after next year’s General Election, he will have to negotiate a new terms for Britain’s EU membership, something which other EU leaders are not keen on. If they make renegotiation difficult for him, the case of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will become even stronger.